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Japan Town Adopts Controversial Textbooks

The Japanese town of Otawara has became the first to adopt textbooks that have triggered strong protests by China and South Korea, which accuse Tokyo of denying its militarist past.  

The education board of Otawara, an industrial and agricultural town 300 kilometers (180 miles) north of Tokyo, voted Wednesday unanimously to use the controversial history and civics books at 12 junior high schools from April.


The books make only passing mention of atrocities committed by Japanese troops in Asia in the first half of the 20th century and were written by scholars who say Japan is too "masochistic" about its history.


"We understand that there are various opinions about the book, but we adopted it from the standpoint of education," said Ryu Onuma, the head of the education board in Otawara.


"We expect children to be brought up with a correct understanding of our nation's traditions and history and that they will have pride and affection toward Japan," he told reporters.


The education ministry approved the history text in April as one of eight that can be used to instruct students aged 13 to 15 in the next school year.


The decision led both Beijing and Seoul to summon Japanese ambassadors and triggered successive weekends of anti-Japanese protests in China.


Beijing also declared its strong opposition to giving Japan a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, a top goal of Japan's foreign policy.


The textbook is an update of a previous edition that was approved in 2001 and used by only 0.1 percent of Japan's junior high schools, all of them for mentally challenged students.


The book's authors, the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform, expressed hope that Otawara would set a new trend of schools adopting the book.


"We respect the decision by Otawara city," the Society said in a statement. "It reflects the deepening understanding of the textbook problem by Japanese citizens, and we expect this will spread to other regions in the country."


Opponents of the textbook were on Wednesday lobbying the Tokyo board of education to ensure Japan's biggest school system does not follow suit. School districts across Japan are due to decide on textbooks before August 31.


"The decision by the Otawara education board to adopt the problematic textbook will generate serious problems for the future of Japan and Japanese children," said Children and Textbook Japan Network 21, a group opposed to the textbook.


The book makes no mention of the women sexually enslaved by Japanese troops during their invasions of Asia and refers to the Nanjing massacre as an "incident" in which "many" Chinese died.


China says 300,000 people perished in the 1937 massacre of the occupied city; Allied trials of Japanese war criminals documented 140,000 deaths.


The book says Indonesians and Malaysians celebrated when Japan took over from Western colonialists, seeing the Asian nation as a liberator, although it briefly mentions that Japanese police could be "cruel" at the end of the war.


(Chinadaily.com.cn via agencies, July 14, 2005)

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